Heartbroken parents tell how they forgave the uninsured driver who killed their daughter, 23, in 110mph road smash… and let him move in to their home
- Maria Jimenez was killed after she was thrown from the car in a high speed crash
- Her friend Nick Tay, 25, had been behind the wheel and was speeding at 110mph
- Maria’s parents say the loss left them consumed by grief but felt concern for Nick
- They invited him into their home as he faced charges and formed a close bond
The parents of a student killed in a car crash have shared how they forgave the man behind the wheel, taking him into their home and calling him son.
Elizabeth and Fernando Jimenez were devastated after their daughter Maria was killed in a car crash in March 2017 but felt obligated to help Nick Tay, the friend who had been driving, as he faced prosecution.
Despite being ‘consumed with grief’, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel for 25-year-old Nick, whose family lived in Singapore, leaving him facing the aftermath of his actions on his own.
The couple decided they would forgive him and the three of them would go on to form a remarkably close bond with each other as Nick faced prosecution, was sent to prison and then deported after serving his sentence.
In March 2017, Maria Jimenez had planned to go Korea to teach after finishing her linguistics degree at Brighton University.
The parents of Maria Jimenez (pictured left) who was killed after her friend Nick Tay (right) crashed her car while travelling at 110mph have said how forgiving him helped them heal
Fernando and Elizabeth Jimenez described how they were consumed by grief after learning of their daughter’s death in March 2017 but remarkably forgave her friend 25-year-old Nick Tay
But just days before her 24th birthday, she was killed in a crash after friend Nick Tay flipped the car while travelling at 110mph.
The pair had been for dinner with their church music group and Maria had asked Nick to drive her home because she had been drinking.
Nick, 25, was speeding down a dual-carriageway in south west London at more than double the limit when he veered across two lanes, hit the central reservation and flew off towards a verge.
Maria was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the Peugeot 206 when Tay, who escaped with minor injuries, crashed in the early hours of March 22.
The crash, which happened on the A3 near Tolworth, cost Maria her life in what police would later call ‘an incident that was entirely preventable’.
The young woman’s parents, originally from Costa Rica but who moved to the UK in 1995, told the Mirror how they were ‘consumed with grief’ when they were informed about Maria’s death.
In a memorial fundraiser set up after her death, Fernando reflected on how her childhood and teenage days were ‘always full of friends, parties, ballet and dancing, in which her leadership and love were notorious’.
He described how Maria ‘had a good voice and enjoyed playing the piano, gifts that allowed her to become a part of Hillsong Church Musical Worship Team at Guildford, UK’, where she would meet Nick.
The couple grieved in their separate ways with Fernando being overcome with anger after finding out what had happened.
Describing his reaction to the Forgiveness Project, he said: ‘These revenge fantasies initially got me through, but I also knew I didn’t want to end up a bitter man.’
Meanwhile Elizabeth’s thoughts turned to Nick and wondering whether he was OK.
She told the Mirror: ‘Suddenly I thought “Wait a minute, who is with Nick at the police station?”
Maria Jimenez with her family, brother Joshua (left) and her parents Elizabeth and Fernando
‘I knew his family lived in Singapore. He must be desperate.
‘I had never met this man before. I know that with their daughter killed many would react with furious anger and blame.
‘But all I felt was deep worry for this young man I didn’t know. I just wanted to be by his side.’
As prosecution loomed, Maria’s parents decided to invite Nick to their home so they could meet him.
Elizabeth recalled Nick entering their living room and approaching Fernando, adding: ‘Nick hugged him and said, “please forgive me”. In tears they both collapsed to the ground, all the while Nick repeating his request over and over and Fernando saying, “I forgive you son”.’
From that point, Fernando and Elizabeth considered him to be part of the family.
Maria was studying linguistics at Brighton University and had planned to go to Korea to teach
Fernando, a missionary, said: ‘If I’d held onto these feelings, they would have destroyed me. Instead, I decided to love him. That’s the moment he became a son to me.’
The family offered Nick a place to stay as legal proceedings were brought against him and Nick lived with them for six weeks ahead of the court hearing.
Elizabeth described how it was ‘wonderful’ to have him there and how they would cook and go for walks together.
In November 2017, Tay, from Guildford, Surrey, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving an uninsured vehicle.
He was jailed for five years and disqualified from driving for four and a half years.
Elizabeth told the Forgiveness Project: ‘Going to prison was extremely traumatic for Nick. He felt such deep guilt and remorse. With his family in another country I began to visit him every week.
‘Things improved for him when he was moved to Maidstone Prison and joined the Beating Time choir.
‘That made such a difference to him because it meant time together with others and space to sing. And crucially he found a way to express extremely complex and painful feelings.
‘I’ve always known that in order for there to be a happy ending to this story, restoration has to take place and be the driving force guiding me to overcome my loss and pain. I don’t want there to be any more casualties.’
Fernando added: ‘Maria was a strong, good character full of life and joy. She was so dear to me and I knew she would want me to forgive Nick if she was here.
‘So I took this position in order to honour Maria. I found great help in knowing I couldn’t blame God or anyone. It was an accident.’
Nick was released after three and a half years but was immediately taken to the airport and deported back to Singapore.
Reflecting on their journey her father Fernando said: ‘The true power of forgiveness is for the person who gives it, not just the person who receives it.
‘Nothing would bring Maria back. But forgiving Nick helped me heal.’
Elizabeth, added: ‘We always taught the children, never react with anger, always react with love.
‘What we did with Nick is exactly what Maria would have wanted us to do. Now he is as dear to us as any child could be.’
The family still speak to Nick every day and say that he is now married and expecting his first child. They plan to visit him once Covid restrictions allow.
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